Hunt-Lima Drainage District looks for help in protecting local farms

A local drainage district is taking efforts to improve its levee system straight to lawmakers and state officials.

The Hunt-Lima Drainage District wants to move forward with a project designed to improve its levee system since the 2008 flood.

But efforts have been stalled because farmers haven't been granted the required permits to strengthen the levee to 100-year certification requirements. A meeting Monday with state and federal officials surveying the 30 thousand acre district and its residents could get it moving again.

"We got organizations together today that very rarely get together but today we were able to get them together and show them firsthand the difficulties and challenges we have on the river," Joe Zumwalt, a Hunt-Lima farmer said.

"If we can't get these levees certified the local impact to these districts is going to be huge," Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) said.

Landowners want to reinforce levees and in some places raise it one to two inches.
Improvements would cost $10 million dollars and would be paid for by District landowners ... not the state or federal governments.

"These levees are very old and they've been tried and tested and we don't want to see disastrous agricultural costs when we would have another flood," State Rep. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) said.

Farmers say they have the right to protect their livelihood. But some people down river say raising the levee even two inches could affect their way of life.

"What we're interested in is an equitable situation so the levees will basically be the same height so we'll have the same storage problems on both sides of the river," Curt Mitchell, Pike County Commissioner said.

"What we're doing here is very minimal," Zumwalt said. "We're trying to show compassion to all entities involved but in some places we're looking at an inch raise in our levee to come to a standard to make it more feasible to farm here."